Going to Gratitude – How and Why

It is National Gratitude Month, the month within which we give thanks.  The practice of “going to gratitude” should not just be reserved for November however, gratitude is a beneficial skill and tool that we can use to create a more positive attitude and outlook on life.  It isn’t just woo-woo mumbo jumbo either, this technique is founded in science.

In a nutshell, our brains are not capable of focusing on a negative emotion like anger, frustration or fear at the same time as we are focusing on gratitude.  It is physically impossible for our brains to do both at the same time.  So you see, trying to find that silver lining or focusing instead on what you are grateful for is a scientifically proven way to shift your thoughts and mood.  Thanks to our primordial brain and our fight or flight mechanism, we are programmed to default to focus on the negatives in a situation.  Over time, practicing gratitude can actually reprogram our brains to default to focusing on the positives.

How do you “go to gratitude”?  It is pretty simple, but not necessarily easy.  Building this skill is like building a muscle, you must practice it over and over and as you get stronger it becomes easier.  Ideally, you will want to start practicing this when things are relatively calm and not when all hell is breaking loose.  For example, the sink is full of dishes AGAIN.  Instead of stewing in the frustration of being the only one to actually do the dishes, instead focus on how a sink full of dishes means you have food to eat, loved ones to share this food with and the health to eat this food together.  Focusing on what you do have instead of what you don’t will brighten your mood and help you to overcome the hurdle or challenge.

Dreading Monday morning at work?  Try focusing on what you are grateful for: a job with a paycheck, a roof over your head, your co-workers who you enjoy spending time with, and that you have the weekend off.  Even your biggest frustrations can have a silver lining if you start looking for them.

You are going to have to work at this at first, forcing your mind to shift towards gratitude and not wallowing in the anger, frustration or sadness.  The more you practice, the easier it will become and before you know it, your default setting will be to focus on the positives and not the negatives.

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